No. 1 Reason You Didn’t Kill a Big Whitetail Buck This Season?

Believe it or not, the primary reason you were unsuccessful at killing a big buck this whitetail season is because you were hunting with a dull ax.

No. 1 Reason You Didn’t Kill a Big Whitetail Buck This Season?

Whitetail hunters are often quick to offer excuses on why a deer season didn’t meet expectations. This past season, the author (above) can’t blame it on cattle or other factors that were out of his control. The primary reason was his lack of scouting prior to deer season.

As I write this article, I can plainly see the finish line to this deer season; it’s not far off. Sadly, my freezer is nearly empty when it comes to venison. I have a bit left over from last deer season, when I killed two adult bucks (one in South Dakota, one in Wisconsin), but it won’t last long.

Sure, I have a lot of reasons (excuses?) why I haven’t filled a tag thus far. I passed on a lot of whitetails during September and October, and especially in early to mid-November, because I was waiting for a bigger buck. Well, as often happens once the firearms seasons arrive, opportunities at whitetails become far less common due to hunting pressure and simple math — fewer deer remain.

This year, whitetail deer numbers were certainly down on the properties I hunt due primarily to a difficult winter a year ago. Harvest statistics from game and fish departments in the upper Midwest confirm this fact. If I had to guess, I’d say whitetail numbers were down at least 25 percent on the properties I bowhunt. The percentage could be as high as 40 percent.

And then there was the surplus of acorns, warm temperatures this fall, etc., etc.  As I said, I have no shortage of excuses for not tagging a big buck so far.

But if I’m honest, the No.1 reason I haven’t killed a whitetail deer this season is because I’ve been hunting with a dull ax. Let me explain.

Hunting Beast Wisdom

If you’re an avid whitetail bowhunter, chances are good that you know the name Dan Infalt. Known for his YouTube channel “The Hunting Beast,” Dan has taken dozens of big bucks on heavily pressured public lands. He works as a prototype machinist, and put those skills to work when designing his popular ultra-lightweight and tough Beast Gear Hang-On Treestand and Climbing Sticks.

Dan Infalt, aka The Hunting Beast, with a massive buck killed on Wisconsin public land in 2023.
Dan Infalt, aka The Hunting Beast, with a massive buck killed on Wisconsin public land in 2023.

Dan is not one to shy away from speaking his mind, and it was a recent Facebook post he made about being a better deer hunter that caught my eye. Here’s the text:

Want to be a better deer hunter? Sharpen your ax!

That might sound weird, but today I was pondering the reasons I have been unsuccessful on some past hunts and came to the conclusion it was because I was hunting with a dull ax.

Okay, okay . . . I was not actually hunting with an ax. Rather, I remembered an interesting quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the ax.”

Change that saying to the Beast Version: “Give me a year to kill a big whitetail, and I will spend the first 8 months scouting.”

I have been so busy helping others sharpen their axes, that I never took enough time to sharpen mine. How about you? Are you hunting with a dull ax?

Deer Season Assessment

After reading Dan’s post, I had to admit that I took no time “sharpening my ax” in preparation for this deer season. I bowhunt a mix of private and public ground, and I spent no time this past spring and summer scouting for whitetails. I have 45 years of deer hunting experience on most of these lands, and I fell into the trap of thinking that I didn’t need to learn more. As a result, when I struggled on my go-to spots, I had no Plan B.

The good news is I understand where I failed this deer season and know how to fix it. I’ll be in the woods a lot during late-winter and early spring scouting for new and better whitetail spots. My ax will be sharp by next deer season. How about yours?


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